We recently sat down with Blaine Proctor in his Midtown office, a restored private residence turned into the headquarters of SAVE Inc., an essential Kansas City charity.
Proctor, the chief executive officer of SAVE, says: “Our exact mission is to provide comprehensive housing solutions for socially and medically disadvantaged people. Specifically, we’re dealing with people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, mental illness and/or serious substance abuse issues. When you are dealing with homelessness, you realize that often those issues and diagnoses intersect.”
The organization was created 31 years ago by a group of volunteers who came together at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. There was only one hospital in the city that would treat HIV/AIDS patients at that time.
“An AIDS diagnosis had an underlying message of, ‘go put your affairs in order,’” Proctor said.
Those volunteers wanted to give people a place to die with dignity and receive care. That first incarnation of the agency was a hospice with eight beds. Today, SAVE serves hundreds of clients every year.
As the prognosis of the disease changed, Proctor says, “We no longer were needing to find a place for people to die, but a place to live.”
SAVE Inc. owns and manages seven residential properties that make up 66 units, ranging from studio apartments to three-bedroom suites. The original property is no longer a hospice, but instead is used as a group home with 24-hour care.
The other properties are designed for independent living, but the residents are able to use many support services from the organization. In addition to the properties that the organization owns, Proctor notes that: “We are one of the largest processors of housing vouchers in the state of Missouri.”
Those vouchers allow people to live anywhere in 15 counties on both sides of the state line. About 900 households are served by programs every month.
SAVE is funded primarily through grants and contracts with both state and government entities. Proctor says that although private donations are not the main source of funding, they are still essential.
A root challenge for the organization is that: “Homelessness is not a topic that people often want to deal with or understand. There are a lot of misconceptions about homelessness that this person is there because of bad judgment. … So many people are in the situation because of no fault of their own.”
More than half of the 35 staff members working for the organization deal directly with clients.
“We just recently added a position that we’re really excited about – a case management position for HOPWA clients [Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS].” The case manager works to keep clients stable within the program.
Proctor says, “There is scientific research out there that proves stable housing leads to positive outcomes. We at SAVE Inc. know in our guts that housing is health care.”
He said that he found the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to be an important ally, particularly for increasing awareness. If a product or service is needed by his organization, he says, he likes to source from MAGLCC members.
Proctor had a previous career in marketing and was on the board of SAVE Inc. for many years as a volunteer. After an initial stint as interim CEO and an epiphany during a conversation with a resident, he decided to “throw my hat into the ring for the job. This is my true calling.”